Feature: Care Grows Under Spell of AIDS

It is routine for Cheng Yanjun, a villager who has been diagnosed as HIV positive, to usually get up before seven a.m., have his breakfast and then go to the village clinic in the village to get some oral medicine for himself and his wife who has also been diagnosed with HIV.

On the outer walls of the clinic, with 12 rooms, knowledge about AIDS is painted in bright colors in order to increase awareness of the deadly disease among local residents.

The clinic was set up with governmental financing of 50,000 yuan (about 6,024 U.S. dollars) to offer medical treatment to more people like Cheng who have been infected with the fatal epidemic by selling blood privately.

In an interview with Xinhua, the 40-year-old villager from Wenlou Village in Shangcai County, central China's Henan Province, admits that he began to sell blood before the age of 20.

"At that time, I just thought selling blood was a way to make quick money, but I never expected to be infected with the deadly disease," said Cheng.

If it had not been the attack of AIDS, Wenlou Village would have been a better-off place to live on the southern plain of Henan Province. Most households in the village had a good income from growing wheat and maize and selling vegetables to the nearby county seat. But their vegetables no longer sold well since AIDS patients were found among the villagers in the early 1990s.

Their nightmare began from then when some "blood-heads", or individuals engaged in the trading of blood, and blood product companies opened centers to collect plasma among villagers without official permits, which caused the spread of AIDS virus among paid blood donors.

Wenlou Village, with more than 3,000 residents, is one of the places seriously hit by the deadly disease.

"Seeing my teenager daughter, I felt my life is finished," said Cheng, recalling the moment he got to know he had been infected.

Governments at all levels have paid great attention to the spread of the deadly epidemic disease in Wenlou Village. Officials have been sent to help the villagers there. Early this month, Deputy Health Minister Yin Dakui and some provincial officials accompanied a group of AIDS specialists to Wenlou Village to provide medical service for AIDS patients, and they had lunch together.

Officials from the county government often visit the village, bringing fruit and other goods to the AIDS patients there. A medical group sent by the county government is stationed in the village on a regular basis.

Liu Aimin, another AIDS patient also from Wenlou Village, who was receiving an infusion at the village clinic, said: "Instead of shunning us, they are working hard to help us treat the disease. Then why not keep arranging a good daily life for myself."

At present, all the AIDS patients in the village get financial aid from the government for living expenses, and their children go to school without pay any fees.

Hu Hanbo, a doctor from the county hospital, said that medical workers from his hospital take turns to work at Wenlou Village Clinic.

Hu, who has been working at the clinic for half a month, said 20 to 30 AIDS patients in the village come to get free medicine or treatment every day at the clinic, where 13 medical workers are on duty round the clock.

In the consulting room, there stands a silver metal cabinet and the medical records of each AIDS patients are kept in it. Only doctors and the AIDS patients have access to the files.

Wang Fuxing, magistrate of Shangcai County, said brochures on AIDS prevention and control are distributed to each household of the village to improve the villagers' understanding about the fatal disease, and doctors also go to the villagers' homes to give advice. To provide better services to the AIDS patients, an association with the AIDS patients and the chief leaders of the county and townships has been set up in the village.

Up to now, more than 90 percent of the residents in Wenlou Village have learned the elementary knowledge about AIDS prevention and control, said the county magistrate.

The Ministry of Health and Henan Province have shut down all illegal plasma collecting centers, effectively stopping the spread of AIDS via blood transfusion. Blood used in clinical treatment in Henan is now obtained from free blood donations, all of which are certified to have met the state quality standards.

The province has been cooperating with the World Health Organization (WHO) in carrying out AIDS virus countermeasure research on major groups of people. So far this year, more than 50, 000 condoms have been distributed in areas in the province where the AIDS disease runs rampant.

The first confirmed HIV/AIDS case was reported in China in 1985. Up to the end of June this year, the number of such cases reached 26,058, and 584 patients had died.

At a press conference held here Thursday, Deputy Health Minister Yin Dakui said the actual total number of HIV-positive people is estimated to have surpassed 600,000.

He said AIDS virus monitoring centers have been established throughout the country, and the central government would earmark 100 million yuan (about 12.1 million U.S. dollars) for a special fund for the purpose of the prevention and control of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases annually.

The government will allocate another 950 million yuan (about 114.5 million U.S. dollars) to support the construction of 250 standardized blood collection and supply centers in the central and western regions of the country.

Yin also pledged to shut down all illegal blood collection centers across the country and demanded all blood used in clinical treatment undergo HIV tests.

In accordance with a long- and medium-term plan, China will build a comprehensive network on AIDS prevention and control and popularize related knowledge among the Chinese in the entire community in the early years of this century. The government will try to keep the AIDS virus infection rate among adult Chinese at the world's lowest level by the year of 2010.

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